When Gift Ngoepe took to the field for the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2017, becoming the first African to play in the American Major League, he gave hope and inspiration to many South African baseballers.
While baseball in South Africa still has major struggles financially, on the field there are a host of young players ready to become competitive forces on the world stage.
Anovuyo Khethelo, 18, from Harare, Khayelitsha, says he too longs to achieve big things in the game of baseball and wants to stamp his name among the best in the country.
Not only does he want to be successful in the field of play, he wants to help grow the game.
He says he would love to see South Africa becoming a powerhouse in baseball and to inspire more youngsters to take up the sport.
The Grade 12 pupil at Mfundo High School, in Khayelitsha, has been given an opportunity by the South African Baseball Union (SABU) to showcase his baseball skills. He has been selected to take part in the national training camp ahead of the Under-18 Baseball World Cup in South Korea in September.
But before he can think about jetting off to South Korea, he still has to impress the national selectors.
However, if his performance during the national championships in Port Elizabeth last month is anything to go by, Anovuyo stands a good chance of booking himself a ticket to the world cup.
He is a key member of the Cape Town Baseball Federation (CTBF) and was part of the team that lost to Gauteng in the finals of the national championships.
Should he be selected, he will be donning the national colours for the first time.
When he started playing baseball, he was only doing so to pass time and didn’t think of becoming a member of any baseball club. That was until Nelson Maphika of Battswood Baseball Club spotted the youngster and invited him to join them in 2015.
“I was playing cricket but I didn’t enjoy the red ball because it is painful (to catch), so I thought let me try the sport that uses a glove. Even then we were not playing seriously but I started seeing some videos about this game and I just fell in love with it. I was still in primary school when I was invited to Battswood so our school didn’t allow us to join at the time.
“I joined in 2017 and went straight to the under-18s.”
Anovuyo was selected to the Western Province junior side in the 2017/18 season and says from there, he knew he had to take his game a step further as he noticed more competition from fellow youngsters.
“When selected for Western Province I noticed that everyone wanted to be the best in the team so I had to improve my game as well,” he says.
Anovuyo is a versatile player who prefers the outfield but has been trusted in the catcher position as well. He thinks his versatility is what made him catch the eye of both the CTBF and SABU.
“When we played Gauteng in the final of the nationals I was moved from catcher to outfield and there was a lot of activity from my side of the field so I was very busy, the selectors might have noticed me there.
“When I heard my name called I was very happy because playing for South Africa is my ultimate dream.
“Even though the national team has always been my goal, once I get there it might open more opportunities.”
Part of Anovuyo’s struggles is travelling as he always has to find the means to go from Khayelitsha to Goodwood for training.
Besides this, he also has to raise R4 500 to attend the national training camp, which takes place in June.
The youngster says more than travelling and meeting people through the sport, baseball has helped him develop into a better person. He says he is known as a shy person but realised he needed to be talkative and outgoing in the field which in turn helps him develop relationships easily.
He says baseball is his gateway to success and representing the country in the world cup is only a stepping stone.
“Playing for my country would be a big deal not only to me but to my community as well, maybe that would open doors to other kids in my community.
“I would love to be a positive influence in my community through baseball.”
To help Anovuyo raise funds for the national training camp, contact Battswood secretary, Diedre Marquard at 083 570 0777.